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Christine's Corner

Friday, May 5, 2023

May 5, 2023

I'm constantly thinking about our culture of philanthropy and what it means to our network. The more I think about it, the more I believe our culture requires a community committed to telling and supporting relevant stories and enhancing each other's well-being.

I focus on "community" because I believe a beloved community and an equitable region go hand in hand. An equitable region is the very essence of a beloved community. Part of having a beloved community is the idea that we can all extend grace to one another by being open and accepting. In philanthropy, this is the heart of equity, where we respect the inherent dignity of all people and perspectives.

Building a beloved community also requires building connections. We can only do this by shifting how we've been socialized to think of others. As a network hoping to achieve this paradigm shift, we want to start planning carefully crafted focus groups for our members to understand better who they are and what they need.

As we work together as a network to reimagine philanthropy and build a gracious community, I encourage all to prioritize listening to the voices of those directly affected and then begin to figure out how we can construct narratives, systems, and policies to help them prosper. I am looking forward to the listening sessions and getting to know the perspectives and realities of members, communities, and the nuances of this region.

The work is not about me. Rather, it's about skillfully working together to listen and translate, bringing theory to practice, and stepping into rooms not accessible to everybody. By doing this, we acknowledge our privilege and put it to good use to better our community and let people know we hear and value their perspective.

March 22, 2023

"Sticking to my knitting." It's a phrase from my childhood that best describes my early months as the new president of Philanthropy Network: focusing on what works to re-energize and grow our 125-member association so that we can be stronger together.

The role of the Philanthropy Network in furthering the impact of regional giving has never been more critical.

As we emerge from the pandemic, signs of more significant and complex needs are everywhere, especially in historically underserved communities. Whether you look at precipitous drops in academic markers, the surge in housing instability, rising community violence or widespread calls for help in supporting mental health, there’s never been a more important time for us in the philanthropy world to be great and effective in our jobs.

With an annual investment of more than $500 million, our diverse membership is a powerful force for good and a catalyst for a more vibrant, resilient and equitable region. We are a generative network that can spur on our transition into what I call a beloved community, where well-being is cherished and nurtured at all levels.

But to accomplish this, we have our work cut out for us. We must convene those who have proven their mettle in advancing gun-violence prevention. We must form more intentional partnerships to co-create public dialogues, inviting fellow residents representing high-priority populations. Only by demonstrating our commitment to those directly affected can we strengthen the philanthropic field through greater inclusivity—dare I say, intersectionality.

I believe there is much to gain in leveraging today's multiple social forces, personal and cultural identities, and ideological instruments to reimagine what's possible. This all starts with ensuring our foundation is durable, and that's why I am sticking to my knitting by focusing on:

  • Governance, with the presentation of a new slate of prospective directors up for a vote at next week’s Annual Members Meeting;
  • Staffing, with the addition of several new positions to ensure our capacity to design and implement a robust learning and action agenda; 
  • A regional listening tour beginning in April to expound on the invaluable insights already shared by many members; and
  • New programming, including sessions on educational equity, modes and models of grantmaking, equity in philanthropy, alignment with public policy and violence-prevention solutions. 

I look forward to greeting you in person at our upcoming Annual Members’ Meeting on March 28th at the gorgeous Center for Architecture and Design (1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia).

December 2022

I hope that all of you are enjoying early winter and the wonders of the Greater Philadelphia region. I am looking back with joy on a restful, engaging, bountiful, and inspiring time with family and friends in Philly over the Thanksgiving weekend. We had a wonderful time together! This was our first Philly Thanksgiving in many years; we have much to be grateful for.

I have been reflecting on my journey and the present. Firstly, as the incoming President of Philanthropy Network, I am thankful for the opportunity to return to this beautiful region, full of vibrancy, life, culture, art, and hope. I am also grateful for numerous new relationships and the prospect of meeting with and thinking alongside many new colleagues. Over the past three months, I have worked to meet with most board members and spent a great deal of time with the current staff. So many of you have welcomed me to your home communities, and I plan to visit as many of you as possible over the coming year. I appreciate the warmth and hospitality shown to me. Every county has numerous communities: metro, suburban, and rural corners burgeoning with promise, and I look forward to continuing to explore the countless gems and neighborhoods throughout the region.

I also look forward to building Philanthropy Network’s capacity through numerous learning opportunities, networking opportunities, and partnerships. An area of initial emphasis has been to explore the viability of policy and advocacy work to leverage the collective power of our members and think alongside our public sector partners, thereby amplifying philanthropic investments across all areas of the region. I plan to fine-tune partnerships and align efforts strategically with the public sector. This builds the strength of philanthropic endeavors and benefits communities throughout the area. 

In alignment with our collective goal of strengthening the philanthropic field, Philanthropy Network is developing two cohorts for a deep dive into vital policy and partnership roles to augment the work of philanthropy and be more intentional about implications for traditionally marginalized populations directly affected. One is a group of philanthropic leaders interested in policy implications, public sector partners, the ramifications of municipal priorities and budgets and ways that we may partner more purposefully as a region. I am interested in beginning a series of listening sessions to learn more about ways this work can be grounded in the Network and built out over time.

The second priority is intentional work in the area of gun violence and violence prevention. Network members, the William Penn Foundation and the Philadelphia Foundation have taken extraordinary leadership in this area, recently spearheading the launch of the Civic Coalition to Save Lives. Philanthropy Network plans to serve as a convener, to share information, host film screenings and dialogues with public officials, and present other opportunities that might deepen knowledge, practice, implementation and, in the long-term, save lives. We all want to live in a safe community where everyone is valued and feels safe as they work, worship, play, and enjoy the wealth of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. The groups are being formed to share philanthropy’s commitment to community well-being on critical issues and explore partnership opportunities that are foundational in the development of an equitable region.

As we embark on the New Year and continue this journey together, I would love to learn more about your work, aspirations, and perspectives. As a generative network, please take time to consider how we want to be with each other. How do we want to live in this region? How might we all link aims and arms to build an equitable region? Creating a beloved community of grace is within our reach if we all have the same dream, the will, the passion, and we all work with intention.